Archive for April, 2016

Shield of the Ishim 7

April 11, 2016

Ishim Shield

Maya woke up on her unsteady feet and suddenly rubbing her eyes. She had no idea where they were but the sisters were standing there too. Luckily their bags had also arrived. Maya leaned down and picked up her messenger bag and hugged it tight before slinging the strap over her shoulder. The weight was about right but she would have to check it when they were not out in the open.

Everybody was shivering a little and Maya still had no idea where they were. She realized they were on the side of a dirt road bordered on both sides by forest in what looked like the middle of nowhere. There was an old truck rattling down the road maybe a mile away. Maybe that was the vehicle that dropped them off. It was hard to tell how long they had been standing there. It was hard to tell how they had been standing there while they were unconscious.

“Where are we?” China asked.

“Council headquarters, I suppose,” Ivy said. She bent down to pick up her own bag and her guitar. Straps went over shoulders and she was good to go.

“Yeah but where is that?” China asked. She waved her hand above her bag and it levitated up into her arms. She pulled out a cell phone before she got a sour look from Ivy. “What?” She asked of her sister.

“I think that she thinks you are going to check a GPS program,” Maya said with a smile. Ivy tapped her nose and pointed at Maya and also smiled brightly.

“That’s not what I was going to do,” China said. She looked indignantly at her sister.

“It wouldn’t work anyway. There’s probably an anti-technology field around this whole area. I imagine they’re covering all of their bases because they are the Council. Additionally, we might still be under a whammy from the ticket. Also, it’s rude.” Ivy said, her voice was a little raised in full-on teacher mode. China quietly slipped her phone back into her bag.

“Most of us don’t carry cell phones or stuff like that, at least not in my experience,” Maya said. She was looking at China in particular. There were so many magical means of communication that cell phones were far too limited in comparison. Also, magic and technology did not always play nice and devices often ended up overloaded or broken.

“I don’t know. It’s come in handy a few times,” China said. “Like looking up arcane symbols or remembering what monsters look like.”

“She uses it to check our Twitter feed,” Ivy said casually.

“What do you have a Twitter feed for?” Robin asked. She had reconnected with the Internet after Coyote had graduated her. So she knew the basics which meant that she knew what Twitter was.

“It’s how people contact us with missions in between the missions we get from the Ishim,” China said.

“What do you mean? Other missions?” Maya asked.

“We get bored between calls to fight monsters. It can be a long time in between Ishim orders sometimes. We use that time to save people or just help people out,” Ivy said with a smile.

“Oh,” Maya said.

“Why? What do you do with that time?” China asked.

“I help people too actually but I do it by patrolling. By letting the universe guide me. I’ve never received missions from anyone but the Ishim,” Maya said.

“Our method is way easier,” China said. “When this is over, I’ll help set you up.”

“Thanks,” Maya said.

A tall man stepped out of the woods in front of them. All three of them reached for implements of defense or offense.

“Hold. I am here to lead you to Ishim Hall,” the man said and held up the Ishim sigil. All three of them relaxed. Ishim was still a pretty secret word among the public and using it was as good as a membership card. Besides, Maya was beginning to trust the sisters and if they trusted this man, she supposed she could too. “Please follow me.” Then he started to walk back through the woods he had come out of. They started to follow the man through the woods as quickly as they could. Ivy made sure the younger girls went first so Maya ended up in front.

They walked for miles through the woods. There were no paths that could be seen anywhere. Still, the man’s steps did not falter and he confidently walked in one direction. Obviously, he knew where he was going so the navigation waypoints he was using were probably so well hidden. It was either that or he innately knew their destination. Eventually, they walked along a stream and after a while, Maya realized that there were no wildlife sounds. The stream led into the gaping mouth of a cave and the man stopped and stood aside.

“You three are to go on from here.” The man said.

“What’s your name?” Ivy asked.

“I do not have one,” The man said.

“Then what do we call you if we need your help again?” Maya asked.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” The man said. “I’m not even real.” Before they could question that he started to fade away like milk mixing into coffee. After a quick moment, he was gone as if he had never been there at all.

“Um. That was strange,” Maya said.

“I don’t know, I like a flair for the dramatic.,” China said.

“So do I but I don’t like standing around and talking about it. Let’s go into the cave,” Ivy said.

How to Train Your Dragon

April 9, 2016

So Dreamworks Animation is kind of hit and miss. I loved The Prince of Egypt and the Road to El Dorado which were both movies that kind of glommed onto the Disney style. Antz, although it ended up being similar to a Pixar movie, was actually really good. Shrek was good and Shrek 2 was actually better. I really liked Kung Fu Panda as I felt like it had a lot of heart and more substance than flash. I also liked and reviewed Mr. Peabody and Sherman and the Penguins of Madagascar right here on the blog. There are a lot of clunkers between those. The Madagascar franchise and the latter half of the Shrek franchise especially, are not good. So it is with a 50/50 track record that I approach a movie about Vikings and dragons and hope it’s as good as people say.

Let’s approach this one first from a technical standpoint because I used to want to be an animator and I still study it. Even six years ago the animation is a little stiff but still very fluid. The cool stuff is really subtle, like hair moving with people’s movements or excellent lighting. The character models are really neat looking. So neat that they kind of re-used the same style for The Croods. I haven’t studied Vikings so I don’t know how accurate it is but that doesn’t matter. They created a look and feel to their world that is consistent and interesting looking. Even the drawings and writing we see is really neat to look at. The “camera work” is really fun and exciting especially during action sequences. A lot of it looks like a live action adventure movie. Throw in a good score and excellent foley and creature sounds and we have a movie.

The movie starts with what looks like it will be a literal hero’s call to journey. We see a warrior culture fighting against the only threat they have ever faced. There are too many tropes going on to name. We have the misunderstood outcast, the father who loves but doesn’t understand his son, the intellectual in a world of brawn and so on and so on. Each of these is taken in a slightly different direction though and most of them are only noticeable in the early parts. Instead, we get a movie that extols the virtues of being smart and kind and that sometimes it’s braver not to fight. These are great messages to teach these days as some groups try to prove that this is a weakness. It also throws in the easy message of the power of friendship and forgiveness.

The star of the movie is voiced by Jay Baruchel whose most famous role is arguably the one where he goes on a rant about HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray. His voice isn’t really suited for his character model and doesn’t really fit the body of a preteen but it grows on you eventually. They really should have picked somebody a little more boyish but I get that they were going for nerdy but snarky. America Ferrara is especially good as the tough and driven Astrid and I loved every bit of her strength mixed with very reasonable insecurities. Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson play really fun Vikings who manage to be kind of touching too. Everybody else is pretty good too.

Overall, the movie is a good family movie that has a lot of heart and a good message. I laughed in all the right places and I felt in all the right places. It’s a little paint by numbers but it’s definitely worth your time if you’re interested.

Gender Moments in Television

April 8, 2016

So since today we’re supposed to examine the letter G, I thought Gender was a fun word to look at. I was thinking about this post since early February when the thoughts were sparked by an episode of Adam Savage’s Still Untitled podcast. Gender is hard to write about as we get a little stuck in our ways but the good news is that things are slowly changing. High profile shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black are doing their part to shatter gender stereotypes and ignorance. However, I decided to think up some more subtle examples woven into more mainstream shows. These are things people might not even notice right away but may open cracks for more knowledge and open-mindedness to worm its way past heavy defenses.


Jessica Jones does not use feminine wiles

Some of you may already see where I am going, some of you might wonder and some of you might already have had your minds blown like mine was. Jessica Jones is a great show that is subtly feminist in its equal representation of females. We could go back and forth on polarizing interpretations of the main villain portrayed by David Tennant. We could talk about how Jessica Jones and Patsy Walker are way tougher than women are usually portrayed. We could also talk about how Frank Simpson is threatened by Patsy and Jess’ strength. All of these are great depictions of gender as it really is in the world. However, let’s look at what’s not there. At no point in season one does Jessica Jones use her feminine wiles to get her way. She uses brawn, she uses brains and she uses connections but she never uses her sexuality. I don’t mean to say that it would be bad if she did but it’s an interesting thing to think about.


Charlie coached in seducing a guy by Dean Winchester

I love Supernatural but at its heart it is literally a show about bros constantly trying to save the world from magical threats. It follows Sam Winchester who is a fairly enlightened guy who is pretty respectful when it comes to differences and connected to the world. His brother Dean is a little less connected and tends to yearn for the 1970’s as he looks for earthly pleasure in the forms of booze, women and pie. While the combination sounds like The Odd Couple meets The X-Files it’s not exactly cut and dry. Under Dean’s surface, there is a deeper human being and Sam isn’t really as saintly as he often appears. My favorite episode of the whole series is The Girl with the Dungeons & Dragons Tattoo which guest stars Felicia Day. In the episode, Dean assumes that Charlie (Felicia Day) can get by a guard by flirting with him but Charlie reveals that she is gay. So, Dean talks her through flirting with a male using what he knows he likes. It’s just an awkward moment where both characters realize things about their identities.


Perry Saturn, Loser Wears a Dress

In the sports entertainment world (otherwise known as pro-wrestling) is a real but also fictional world where people fight physical and technical bouts for money in front of crowds. In this world image is everything because the outcomes and storylines are fictional but the pain can be real. You have to make the crowds interested in each match or they will be pointless to put on without earning money to pay all the costs involved. So, some intelligent promoter thought up using match stipulations to drive up more interest in matches that might need a little help. World Championship Wrestling came up with a lot of weird ones. People who lost matches had to leave the company, be people’s manservants, change group affiliations and so on. When Perry Saturn went up against Chris Jericho at Souled Out in the loser had to wear a dress. This was meant as a humiliation punishment but it turned out that Perry Saturn liked wearing a dress and didn’t see it as a punishment. Wearing women’s clothes isn’t a sign of weakness.


Castle is constantly rescued by Kate Beckett and is alright with it

There are too many of these moments to count. Castle is a show about Richard Castle, a murder mystery writer who suffers from writer’s block and eventually becomes a consultant to Detective Kate Beckett. The show has a lot of fun moments in it that are pretty human and there is a lot of drama to follow along with enough comedy to light the way. Kate’s evolution has little to do with her sexuality and more to do with her emotions as a human being, a police detective and an orphan. Castle, on the other hand, starts the first episode as a flirtatious, stubly alpha male who has questionable tendencies toward eligible females. Through the series, he comes to respect Kate better and respect himself better through her eyes and the eyes of his daughter. One thing that does occur from episode one is that Castle has no problems being rescued over and over by a woman as well he should not. Honorable mention goes out to Life and Psych as two more examples of tough, feminine characters who are fully accepted by their peers.


Officers Blubs and Durlon declare their love

Gravity Falls is a cartoon about twin twelve-year-olds who are sent to live with their Great Uncle for the summer in a small Oregon town. The town of Gravity Falls is filled to the brim with weirdness. There are supernatural creatures and magical spells and eldritch multi-dimensional beings that do all sorts of horrible (yet sometimes funny things). The show also has a whole cast of characters who are exaggerated but share a lot of moments that resonated with my life and, by looking at the fandom, I was not the only one so impacted. Two prominent side characters are the town’s only police officers, Officer Blubs and Officer Durlon. They are ignorant, lazy and crazy but, in the end, they do their job and help defend the town the best they can. Starting early it was hinted that they had a very close relationship but I always assumed they were friends. Then they started saying things that could be interpreted as making them more than friends. In the second to last episode they finally clearly declare their love as they embrace. I have to accept it as canon now.

Media Update 4/7/2016

April 7, 2016

This is not an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. If you’re into that sort of thing, it appeared earlier this morning and can be found here: Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure Part 6. In the meantime, enjoy this regular weekly feature where I blabber on about what I’ve been watching lately.


10 Cloverfield Lane

Those who have followed this blog know how much I like scary stuff (and Halloween) but I often shy away from thriller type stuff because they often feel too formulaic. There are some good examples of movies that are original but for the most part it’s a lot of dread and jump scares and not much thought. This movie caught my attention. First, I love John Goodman. He’s a charismatic actor who is incredibly talented in just about anything he’s applied himself to. Second, I did see Cloverfield and, although it wasn’t great, I was enticed by the vague mystery connecting the two movies. Finally, the song “I Think We’re Alone Now” was just so catchy and creepy in the trailer that I was practically humming it after I bought my ticket. The movie was excellent. It was just the right amount of uneasy comedy, mystery and thriller. It’s not a jump scare-fest. It’s a movie that makes you think and worry and really root for the main character. My point of view shifted several times during the movie and I’m still left with questions in the best way. Check it out and be spooked.


The Good Dinosaur

So my love affair with animation continues. I saw this one alone on a big screen television instead of in a theater with a bunch of kids and parents like Inside Out. I saw the teaser trailer above and made the gut decision to pass it up in theaters. I thought it was another Wall-E and there would be little to no dialogue. That’s fine but it’s not exactly my cup of tea but I knew I would see it anyway. Once again, I am kicking myself for not watching this sooner. Non-Spoiler: The dinosaurs talk and they are great. The movie is about a young Apatosaurus looking to make his mark among his farming family. However, he is afraid. Fear and anxiety plague the young dinosaur and he goes on a journey to learn that bravery does not mean you’re not afraid. It is a great story about our responses to fear, the struggle to shine among your peers and finding the will inside you to do things you never thought you would do. It is a great movie. Not Pixar’s best but miles ahead of their worst.


Room 237

This movie is so insane that it is more than a little bit scary. The Shining was an excellent movie made by Stanley Kubrick, possibly the greatest perfectionist in film history. He subjected most of his cast to what could be called psychological torture in order to make the movie he wanted to make. The movie was so good that the actors forgave him for pretty much everything. To me, the movie was a pretty straightforward look at how isolation and mental issues can cause a man to go insane. Also, there are ghosts and magic powers. In this documentary, they took several people with insane theories about the movie and just let them unleash a flood of evidence. The three strongest theories (but still insane) are: the movie is a reference to the massacre of the Native Americans, the movie is a reference to the Holocaust and the movie is a reference to how Kubrick faked NASA’s moon landing footage. All three theories are horribly specific for a movie that does not explicitly refer to these things. Most of the people who offer up these theories seem to have been damaged forever by 2001: A Space Oddysey. That movie left a lot up to the audience to interpret and it was confusing to the average person. Even I still have some confusion about it. These people thought that The Shining was the same kind of movie instead of the pretty clear horror/suspense movie we know it as. This movie is a lot of talking so watch it in the background while doing paperwork or watch it in chunks maybe.

Links of the Week:
Warren G ft. Nate Dogg – Regulate
Tokyo Police Club – Hot Tonight
Halestorm – Mayhem
Player Piano – Guile’s Theme
The Misfits – Die, Die My Darling

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Fear”
– Man, Lucifer is really good
– American Crime Story is over and that’s sad
– Zootopia was sold out when I went to see it
– Wrestlemania weekend was so much fun
– I’m really enjoying Mr. Robot though it is depressing
– I’m still watching so much Youtube

Felix Graham: Osaka Adventure 6

April 7, 2016

Felix Osaka

May and Makoto were on their fifth house by now and had moved pretty far down the street. This was good because it meant they were being pretty efficient. Unfortunately, it also meant that there was probably no success on find a lead yet. Felix did not know Makoto’s capabilities but her confidence and wisdom beyond her age bespoke of something Legendary. Besides, May and Ren not only vouched for her but also deferred to her even though she was half their age. That was impressive.

Even after their discussion, Jun was still tense and pensive as she stared out the window. Felix was relaxed. Back at Sub-Hopkins, he had found his best success when he was relaxed but ready to act. You had to take moments of calm and pleasure when they came. A crossword puzzle, a drink at the bar or just sitting in the back of a car on a warm, Osaka afternoon. If you dwelled on what was coming you would go insane.

Of course, moments of calm never last forever. As Felix looked over to check on May and Makoto, a bear of a man leaped from a tree branch above them. He swung a giant sword as he fell but his swing was opposed and blocked by May’s upward swing of her own sword. Even as the sound rang through the neighborhood, Makoto drove her staff into the man’s ribs. This is when that calm moment truly exploded into chaos.

Felix watched as Jun unlatched her door and then kicked it hard with both feet. The force swung the door out into the path of a man who had been running down the street with several other black-armored people. Jun slid out of the car and dropped the now-winded man with one punch. Felix could see that she had brass knuckles on each hand. She started to fight as best she could but there were a lot of tough-looking people surrounding her.

Of course, Makoto showed up pretty quickly to help even the odds. She swung her staff, punishing her targets with hard impacts. May was back where she had been, fighting the big guy and a few normal-sized thugs. Felix noticed that May had added a sheath to her sword which blunted her sword. He was kind of glad that this probably would not be a blood bath. These guys did not look like Legends even if they outnumbered Makoto’s little circle.

Felix watched as May swung her sword like a baseball bat as hard as she could. The sword slammed into three chests and three thugs went flying through a wooden fence. Makoto’s staff whirled around her and struck sensitive spots. Jun planted fists and feet into anyone within reach and ran to reach those who were not. Arrows whizzed from somewhere and pinned people down by their clothes. This made them easy pickings for the three fighting ladies.

In the end, the neighborhood was covered in still and hopefully unconscious bodies. As soon as the danger had passed, Felix immediately slipped out of the car and started to check vital signs. Ren came down from wherever he had secreted himself carrying his bow and everyone started to search the perimeter and watch everybody on the ground. All the men and women who had just attacked them were all armored in black, built like MMA fighters and there was some kind of logo on their armor. Nobody recognized it immediately.

“Well, Officer Jun, it looks like you will be useful after all,” Makoto said, nudging a woman with her foot.

“My father trained me well but thank you for the compliment,” Jun said. Her brass knuckles glowed for a moment and shrank to single rings on her ring fingers.

“Don’t be modest, Jun,” May said. “You really were amazing. Sentinel training must be hard but it sure is effective.” She slid her sword and sheath impossibly into a slot at her hip and it was just completely gone.

“Arigato, May-san. You and Ren are very skilled at fighting as well.” Jun answered.

“Eh. I mostly learned from anime and video games but thank you.” May said. Jun laughed with disbelief but Felix knew it was probably somewhat true. May grinned over at Felix as if she was telepathic and Felix laughed too. She then turned and hugged her husband briefly.

“Lion cub,” Makoto said abruptly although this time the nickname was a little more light-hearted. “Call in these hooligans to your father. We will be taking three of them with us.” There was no room for argument in her orders.

“Hai!” Jun said in agreement. “If we are taking prisoners, you will probably need these.” She tossed Makoto a bag of cable ties and then pulled out a walkie-talkie to contact her father’s office.

“Doctor Graham,” Makoto yelled,”How are the patients?”

“I’m impressed. Not a single one of them is deceased. There’s really nothing they can’t sleep off. I even healed the worst of it.” Felix said.

“May the universe save us from good samaritans,” Makoto said with a sardonic smirk.

Envy

April 6, 2016

(I guess I should explain for the uninitiated that this is pro-wrestling promo. They pop into my head sometimes and they’re fun)

<Music starts and a man steps out on stage. When he hits the top of the ramp, he holds up a hand and the music quickly fades out. There is a long pause as the stranger surveys the crowd with a very slight, self-satisfied smile on his face. The smile fades as he is handed a microphone and he speaks as he walks down the ramp toward the ring. The crowd has mixed reactions to this stranger.>

Vance: They say the man who has the power, holds the world in the palm of his hand. You are looking at the most powerful man you are likely to see in person. So there you all are in the palm of my hand. This business is in the palm of my hand. Whatever I want is already mine.

<He rolls into the ring and stands defiant>

My name is Nicholas Vance. However, you can call me Envy. That is the emotion most people have when they meet me. I have been around the world and I have seen victory after victory. Nothing is behind me but broken dreams and broken hearts. I went to Japan and broke bones in dojos. I went to Europe and outwrestled anyone I met. I even did some bare-knuckle boxing down in Mexico. You can tell by this pretty face how well I did there.

What more can I say? I want the gold. The gold is mine. My name is Nicholas Vance.
NV Me. Now bring on my first challenge.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

April 5, 2016

When I was sitting down to plan all of my entries for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I tried to think about what happened last year that worked. Last year, I reviewed a movie named City Under Siege for the third day of the challenge and he letter C. I picked the title at random because it was available on Netflix and fit a letter that I had no other plans for. I went into the movie blind and ended up loving it and highly recommending it. I scrolled through my Netflix list and tried to think of movies that would be fun to review this month. I never want my blog to be a chore and I never want to post anything that was not genuine. I ended up picking today’s movie because I was intrigued by the title and, like City Under Siege, it is an Asian film. I am always looking to expand my horizons so how about we see how that worked out?

I usually go for dubbed versions of these movies if I can help it but this was not an option this time. I am totally alright with that though because I have watched a lot of subtitled movies in various languages as well. This is Chinese which has rules that automatically make it a short of musical language with a particular staccato rhythm. I like it, I just do not speak it. It is sort of a period piece which I am not as experienced in beside movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It looks like we’re looking at maybe the early 1800’s but I really don’t know Chinese history very well. Add on to that the fact that this is a stylized movie much in the way of the Sherlock Holmes movies or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Time period means less than the general look of the movie.

The movie stars Andy Lau who you may know from movies I still want to see like House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs and an upcoming Matt Damon movie. He plays a disgraced dissident who must solve why important people are suddenly spontaneously combusting. He has a comic but serious air to him that is pretty charismatic. I am surprised that he has not been scooped up by Hollywood before recent events. His Co-star is Bingbing Li who actually has been in some minor Hollywood films. She plays the Empress’ right-hand woman, Jing’er, who is responsible for Detective Dee and also the Empress’ safety. Her face and voice depict even more than her lines do and she’s a great match for Lau. They are joined by a lot of good side characters like the Empress, Donglai, Wang and many more.

As expected, there’s a lot of martial arts in the movie. It is a Hong Kong film so it is not surprising that there is brilliant fight scenes with weapons, wire stunts and a lot of choreographed chaos. My favorite thing about Hong Kong movies is the fluidity of motion and the elaborate movements that people use sometimes to accomplish simple tasks. It makes every moment seem important. I also expected there to be mystery elements in the movie since the word is in the title and the main character is a detective. I did not expect the mystery to be so intricate and well written. It reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or other similar logic-based mystery stories. There is even rudimentary forensics without getting too outlandish. What I was not prepared for was the politics. There are some interesting political motivations going on that underly everything. Some of them even have parallels to early 2016 US politics but it’s all really well done.

The movie is silly in places and some things do not make sense but I chalk that up to cultural differences. There are probably references that I am not catching which is fine. I really liked this movie quite a bit. There were a lot of surprises that I just cannot get into here for fear of spoiling the movie. The movie also had a lot of interesting innovations for old devices that I really enjoyed a lot. The characters were complicated and difficult to predict. I really, really liked that. This movie has been on Netflix for forever so I hope it’s there when you go looking for it.

Comet Girl Pt. 1

April 4, 2016

Traci took the weight of the plane on her shoulders as they hurtled through the air at a difficult but not impossible speed. She used her shoulders and then her back as her father had taught her because if she used her hands they might go right through the metal skin and she could easily lose control. Spreading out the weight on her shoulders and upper back was a little awkward but it was more effective. She hoped everybody was alright on the plane. She thought she had heard screaming while she chased the plane but it was hard to tell with the thick hull of the plane. At least they weren’t falling as fast anymore and the weather was nice for cruising.

What seemed like an eternity passed as she grew bored of holding up a 367-ton airplane. The airport could not be too far off now, could it?. She had felt the pilots definitely turn toward a specific direction which she guessed was Drake City and the airport was miles north of the city. She suddenly felt an immense vibration and heard the sheer power of the engines. It looked like three out of four engines had turned back on and the plane suddenly felt a lot lighter. She eased off the plane a little bit and it stayed in the air by itself. She smiled and descended to a few feet below the plane. She could probably just fly away now but it was smarter to stick around in case they needed her again.

Traci wished she had brought some of her homework along. She had so much Trigonometry to do and Catcher in the Rye was not going to read itself. Then she had a vision of trying to explain to her teachers how her homework had ended up scattered over half the county. She giggled to herself and figured that homework could wait. It was tough being a secret superhero and a middle school student at the same time. She had tried to keep grades, cheerleading and the friend situation together but when her powers had manifested, cheerleading had to go. It had been mostly replaced with stopping disasters.

Traci’s mom had forbidden her from acting where she would be seen. She was flying now in an all black spandex outfit that was pretty uninspiring. She had cut her blonde hair short so that she could shove it under a black hat. Her mom had even fashioned a pantyhose-like mask to slip over her face so she wouldn’t be recognized. It did help a little with the wind currently blowing in her face but the whole thing was more than a little annoying. Each day she was more done with flying around in stealth mode. She wanted to make a splash and inspire people and maybe get some of the gratitude for saving people.

Traci’s dad had been a hero and very much in the public eye as the Comet. He had all of the same powers as Traci. He could fly, he was super strong, super tough and his senses had been heightened. He worked alongside emergency services in Drake City for years during the eighties but he usually didn’t fight crime. His journals had said that introducing someone with such tremendous power into situations with guns usually didn’t work out right. Besides, cops could usually handle most things professionally. Her dad had been a shining example for everyone to help each other and was always there when things went to hell.

Traci had to rely on journals when it came to her dad because he was missing. He had disappeared over Banks Lake years ago after helping to put out a forest fire. One moment he had been there and the next he had completely vanished and he had stayed vanished. Traci had only vague theories on why he had disappeared. His journals said that he had gotten his powers from a meteor fragment and some live wires. Comet had sounded better than Meteor and the name stuck. Maybe the weird energies from the meteor fragment had caused some sort of science-y thing to make him disappear. It was the best idea she had and that was incredibly frustrating.

Everybody Traci knew thought that her father had run out on his family. Even though Traci knew that wasn’t true, she also knew that the effect was the same either way. She missed her dad. In her spare time, she was working on a costume very much like his. When she thought about these day-saving adventures, she referred to herself as Comet Girl. She knew her mother meant well but she was aching to be free. All she could do was bide her time and keep doing what her father would have done.

The plane suddenly hit Traci in the back of the head as it started to descend toward the airport and Traci rubbed her head and hurried out of the way. She watched for a moment and flew fast in the opposite direction. She smiled to herself at how well she had done saving that plane. She would circle around and sneak back into the city and get to her homework now.

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.


Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


Hairspray

I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.


X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.


Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

April 1, 2016

My family has a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. My brother owes his middle name to the sixteenth President of the United States. It makes a lot of sense. He was a very presidential president and accomplished a lot before he was laid low by an assassin’s bullet. Also, he was a lawyer and both of my parents are lawyers. Most of Abraham Lincoln’s life is hardly a secret. He grew up very poor but he was self-educated and frontier life made him pretty hardy. He became a lawyer and then joined the Illinois legislature before finally becoming President of the United States. He commanded the US during the Civil War, saw its conclusion and abolished slavery near the end. Finally, his life was taken by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in DC.

All of this forms the framework for the book that Seth Grahame-Smith wrote called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He took the real history and added in a secret vampire hunting quest that Honest Abe was engaged in. While he was making history in his day job, he was also declaring a private war against the vampires of our great nation. I expected the book to be silly and kind of lame but it wasn’t. The characters were well written and the author takes great pains to match actual events to fictional events. The plot was compelling and it was a hard book to put down. I rarely watch a movie after reading a book and vice versa but I thought I’d make an exception.

While I said that the book wasn’t silly, it was pretty hammy and heavy-handed. Vampire movies and books are often light and dark, good and evil as it makes things way easier. The movie skips a bit of the book and Lincoln’s history and zooms through his childhood. That’s fine, I didn’t come to see the story of a frontier child. I came to see one of the father’s of our country whoop some ass. We are given a fair background of the general time period and it already feels like we’re not getting the detail from the book. This movie feels like it’s going to be more about Abe’s story and not about matching fictional dates with historical dates. This is immensely acceptable because I’ve studied history. I want a good story.

We dive right into the supernatural and it’s not only the vampires who are magical, it’s the honest one himself as well. Also, the movie is built like a lot of epic/vaguely artsy blockbusters that came before it. While I could make a few 300 and Gangs of New York comparisons, the film felt more like a revenge movie (Kill Bill) mixed with a war film (Gettysburg). The movie knows that it is silly and also knows not to take itself seriously while appearing to take itself deadly seriously. The vampire effect is actually really fun, like Buffy and Angel, it instantly turns human-looking creatures into absolute scary monsters. Vampires are feral beasts when cornered but gentlemanly when going about their normal business.

The movie is full of some great performances although obviously not a single one of them is Oscar quality. I really like a good weaselly performance from Jimmi Simpson, a television actor who does not often get his due. I was surprised to see Alan Tudyk who is one of my all-time favorite television actors and he plays Stephen Douglas, Abe’s historic political rival. Also, there’s a solid pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie which is awesome. Abraham Lincoln himself is played really well by Benjamin Walker even if he looks more like a young Liam Neeson than I imagine Lincoln looked. There are two main villains and both of them are pretty charismatic and sufficiently evil. In the end, the movie was a really fun sit that didn’t take too long and was interesting enough to keep my attention.


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